With Neymar picking up his first hat trick of the year and Lionel Messi orchestrating the attack and notching his second brace, Barcelona easily slipped past Granada with three first half goals and a 6-0 victory Saturday at Nou Camp. Making up for their draw against Malaga three days ago, the Catalans retook first place atop the La Liga table and could maintain it should Valencia draw or lose to Real Sociedad Sunday.
In his first start of the year, Neymar scored his fourth, fifth and sixth goals in 26th, 45th and 66th minutes, with Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic knocking in his second goal of the term in the 43rd. Lionel Messi also picked up two assists with a perfect cross to Rakitic and another slick pass to help Neymar complete his hat trick.
Barcelona afforded El Grana no room to stage any sort of attack or comeback, holding them to one shot on goal in the first half and a 76-24 possession advantage. But the Catalans can’t afford to let up against weaker opponents, with Real Madrid scoring at will and shooting up the table with 20 goals scored already.
Neymar first put the Catalans on top when he intercepted a poor-placed back pass, and streaked toward the goal for a chip shot over Granada keeper Roberto.
El Grana made some adjustments and closed off the middle of the area, but Messi quickly dissected the backline along the right wing, finding Rakitic streaking toward the net for a header and 2-0 lead.
The Catalans would finish things off just before the close of the half. Messi’s through ball to forward Munir El Haddadi would have resulted in a goal, but Roberto swooped in and thwarted the Spanish’s attempt with a sliding block. However, Neymar followed through on the play, rebounded the block and connected on his second goal.
In the 62nd, Messi would get on the board, firing a header past Roberto off defender Dani Alves superb one-timer cross, and Barcelona was up 4-0.